My garage is currently car-free. The space that’s normally available has been co-opted; it’s all a bit of a mess. This is the first time I haven’t been able to park my car under cover since I was twenty-seven.
The garages in the homes I grew up in were always used as storage space. Always. It’s my dad. He’s a putterer. He has any number of uncompleted projects on the go. He also saves everything. That two-foot long piece of fiberglass pipe might come in useful one day.
My mother loathed the chaos. It came up frequently during arguments. She’d snarl and demand cleanliness, he’d promise to get to it and get distracted, and my mother would complain again the next time the bickering stopped. The cycle repeated until I learned to take care of the problem. I tidied the garage myself. And the kitchen. And the basement.
When I moved into my first home, my garage was organized and pristine. They’ve remained that way ever since. Garages are for cars and tools. Everything that’s not a car is stored on shelves. Cleaning is frequent. I even dust.
My garage is the bomb.
At least it was until two weeks ago.
Who knows what things you’ll do to stave off the boredom of a pandemic? The pandemics of my imagination were much more exciting. That’s not to say I don’t grieve the dead. It’s just that in the pandemics of my imagination, the dead were more numerous. And zombie-fied. There was action aplenty. I was on the run and fighting the good fight. The reality of a pandemic for most is the struggle to fill the time.
Enter spring cleaning.
My children were less than thrilled. They complained about having to park outside if I followed through with my plan. It seems my children are made of sugar and will melt if they get wet. Nevertheless, I held firm. I went ahead and started the cull, using the garage as my staging space.
My storage room was going to be a thing of beauty by the time I was done.
Much huffing, puffing, sorting, and debris-dragging later and the storage room is amazing. Possessions are organized in boxes. Boxes are organized on shelves. Things that should have been gotten rid of have been gotten rid of. It’s glorious.
The garage is another story.
Much is landfill-bound. I unearthed a bag of truly disgusting pillows. I cannot fathom why I saved them. Possibly discard guilt. Eight extra closet doors are also being shuffled off. I thought they might come in useful. Like father, like daughter, I guess. There’s also a twisted, four-foot-long piece of metal no one can identify. I may have to categorize it as “art”.
There are boxes of old music books. Bags of clothes that either don’t fit or the owner no longer wants. Baby supplies the baby has outgrown. A rather unattractive Styrofoam pumpkin. A box of mismatched coffee cups.
Why do I have all this useless crap?
I’d thought I’d hire a rubbish removal company but the quotes started at five-hundred dollars and went up. I’d take them to the dump myself but the transfer station is closed to private individuals – a COVID 19 restriction that’s still in play. Ditto donations of goods to charities.
My timing could have been better.
For some of the earmarked charity donations, I can skip the middleman and hand things out directly. It’s not like I don’t know where the people who need help are. Everyone knows. It seems a few more are added every week. Homelessness in my hometown is off the charts.
Who are we as a society that we let people fall so far?
I’m lucky I didn’t end up in the same place.
That’s all it is. Luck. I had people. The people had resources. I got treatment. I could pay for the necessary drugs. I didn’t lose my everything and end up alone with nowhere to go.
It’s easier to be mentally ill when you have a support system and some money in the background.
People discount the importance of luck. So many people I talk to consider the homeless to be fundamentally different. It would never be them.
“It could never happen to me”, they say as they call the bank for an extension on their already late mortgage payment and the credit card company for a break on their interest rate.
“I’d never end up on the streets,” say the people who don’t own their cars and don’t have three months of living expenses sitting by in the bank in case of emergency.
I was lucky. My family helped when my world fell apart. They sent me to hospitals. They arranged for counsellors and doctors and experts. I had friends who rallied too, who encouraged me to fight. The insurance companies I’ve dealt with have been decent.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been financially strapped. But I’ve never lost my entire world. I’ve always had a cushion for the fall. If I hadn’t, where would I have gone? What would’ve happened to me?
What if I didn’t have disability benefits? What if I didn’t have doctors? What if I couldn’t afford my medications? What if I lost my home before money became available? At least I own my car. I could’ve lived there for a while.
I wonder what kind of homeless person I would’ve been? Would I have tried to stay me or given up the fight? Would I have had grace? Would I have raged against the machine? Would I have survived for any amount of time at all?
Never underestimate the power of luck.
Are you a lucky person or an unlucky person? Do you believe in luck or do you disbelieve and think we make our fate?